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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Game Planning for Class: Strategy vs Tactics

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you'll hear a lot of talk about 'going with the flow' or 'flowing with the go,' when it comes to rolling. The sport does have a very laid back approach, but that's not to say that your time training should be taken lightly. Your time on the mat is valuable--you do pay for it after all--so don't do yourself the injustice of consistently going into class and letting whatever happen, happen. Going to class should be a lot of things--fun, instructional, exhausting, etc.--but all of those things you should focus on your intent, i.e. implementing your game plan or strategy. In this post we're going to look at setting up a game plan,  when to implement tactics over strategy, and keeping track of your progress,.

Sometime before class you really need to be thinking about what it is you want to accomplish in this mission. You can consider it a 'little bit of' goal setting, if you'd like; but it needs to become part of your training regimen. Setting up a game plan prior to walking into your gym is another tip that can help take your game to the next level. Now, that isn't to say that it'll sky rocket your game (it might, but most likely not), but it will help get you to those steps/levels a lot faster than if you weren't doing time. For instance, if you're a white belt who is having trouble with getting a triangle to work properly, a good game plan is to 'work' triangles when you're rolling, or utilize your training partner's help to drill them when you have the time. In my school, like many others, foot locks, knee bars, and ankle locks were all looked down upon when you're still a white belt. But once I got my blue belt, I wanted to immediately start working on them. Not because I gained some high-level secret access club, but because I know that if I didn't start, I'd be ruling myself out of 50% of the available submissions. Thus my game plan became learning and training various locks from the waist down. In that example, I'd tell my training partners ahead of time that it was what I was working on, so 'help me drill it when we're working together;' which might have been during a roll or maybe an open mat session. In your case, however, whatever your game plan is, you need to go into the gym with it in mind and be ready to act on it.

But game planning is a strategy, and sometimes that gets thrown out the window. Sticking with the same example(s), if I told a training partner that I was drilling leg locks, they might understand that as I want them to hide their legs from me so I'd 'have to work for them;' and thus not allowing me to work my game plan, and ultimately resulting in the night's strategy going out the window. This is where you have to abandon strategy in favor of tactics. Tactics are the employing the available means to accomplish an end. i.e. abandoning Plan A (triangles/ leg locks) for Plan B (whatever this guy is giving me). Getting away from your game plan is okay. You're not going to be able to implement it 10/10 times anyway. But what's important is that you stick to your game plan as often as possible until you meet your goal--in this case becoming more proficient at triangles/ leg locks. 

You might think that game planning might not be for you; well, you're wrong. If you continually go into class just looking to learn something new to add to your BJJ Utility Belt, then odds are you're just going to turn into one of those guys who knows a trick or two and never submits anyone with anything else. But game planning isn't all about trying submissions either. Your game planning can be trying new sweeps, escapes, maintain mount, etc. But just because you're learning, doesn't mean you're growing; or developing. Utilizing a game plan will help you improve on the areas you need to improve on as well as expand your game into new areas that you might not have otherwise dipped your toes into. 

So now that you've got a grasp on what a game plan is and how to implement it, let's look at how it'll help keep track of your progress. By improving on your lacking areas, or branching out into brand new ones, having a game plan is obviously going to make your bjj game better. We've already talked about The Notebook and how it can help you remember all those techniques, but keeping a mental notebook for your game plan will help you understand your game and how it's progressing. Personally, I don't know if I'll ever become proficient at an Inverted Guard; but I do know my leg lock game is getting pretty solid. The reason why I know is because for weeks I went in to classes, attempting to play inverting and failing. Adversely I did the same thing with the leg locks, and over the course of 4 weeks, I've gotten pretty good at them. Progress tracked. I still may come back to Inverted stuff, but for know I know where I stand. By drilling it over and over, for weeks until I/you realize that I/you can or can't do something is truly the best way to determine whether it is worth adding into your game or not. And through doing that, I'll be beat into your head and that mental notebook will be much easier to keep track of than you think. 

So, let's recap: If you want to try new stuff, or get better at something, go into class with the game plan that that's your area of concentration until you feel comfortable to leave it and move on to something else, It's also okay to abandon it in class if your training partner makes you use tactics over strategy, that's when you'll dip back into your knowledge base and BJJ Utility Belt. 

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